Who’s Kidding Who?

“They called him Danny La Rue, because in drag he looks as long as a street,” whines the chatty little journalist in Film Review, published by the EMI Film and Theatre Corporation, who are also responsible for the distribution of Our Miss Fred, Danny La Rue’s entry into the mindless world of telly orientated cinema. The film is liberally sprinkled with an array of “dirty” jokes designed to make fifty-four year old disgusted Mr and Mrs Fred Nudge masochistically ‘Tch, tch’ in the rear stalls of the ABC Purley.

Technically well directed by Bob Kellet and beautifully photographed by Dick Bush, the film appears on the surface to be a mild piece of entertaining whimsy, with Danny as a small time actor, possibly this is the only element of realism in the film, who is conscripted into the army during World War Two and is sent to France to keep the lads happy and gay with his drag act. While in mid-performance his platoon is captured by the Germans who set him free, believing him to be a civilian woman. Shades of St Trinians follow as he falls in with a butcher than butch Lally Bowers leading a bunch of blue stocking schoolgirls to safety from cocks and Nazis. In the true tradition of hackneyed British comedy prose, he fancies the girls and has to be acutely embarrassed when believing him to be yet another unsullied virgin from next door, he gets asked to unzip that awkward clasp at the back of someone’s dress. Of course being a good green blooded English lad, even when he’s wearing his straight all-male clobber, he goes a bright shade of pink at the very mention of the word thingy, because underneath it all, he’s a yellow bellied, clean living heterosexual, who’s never got nearer to the sex act than a few good double entendres in the Rose and Crown on a Saturday night. In pursuit there’s also notoriously anti-gay actor/comedian, Alfred Marks (do you ever listen to “Does the Team Think?”) as a German general, who, guess what, fancies Fred or as he’s now calling himself, Frederica. So off they all go in a rickety old car trying to make their way to the Channel, with Fred continually murmuring, between innuendos: “When I get my trousers back on, they’re on for life.” But he’s putting up with it all for dear old England.

What is really disturbing about the film is the general suggestion that the character must hate wearing drag, because otherwise he’d be homosexual and undesirable, and most of the funny lines are based on this idea. Danny La Rue, whenever he’s interviewed by the Press on on TV, and that’s pretty often, goes to great pains to deny he’s a homosexual, and to suggest that it’s all a big laugh, a kind of novelty glamour act, and all the lads call him ‘Dan’. This is lapped up by the viewers who either believe it, or being British, delight in his hypocrisy, laugh heartily at his act, and shrink back in fear if they see a transvestite in the street. Those who believe him think he is aping the way homosexuals behave and that we all dress up in women’s clothes. Many gays adore him, for his luxurious attire, which is well displayed in the film, obviously made very much with the “gay market” in mind, and his public utterances give them ideal opportunity to gossip on the lines of — “Of course he lives with his mother. So and So saw him in the whats it club last week.”

What I call the real drag acts, people like Marc Fleming and Mrs Shufflewick, who you see in the pubs and clubs, make themselves look as grotesque as possible because they are sending up the whole idea of beautiful women and handsome men. Their jokes are blue and unashamedly homosexual, and by the end of their routine you are plunged into a drunken euphoria, knowing the whole damn beauty conscious world is just a farce. The radical drag queens in London GLF are attempting to express similar ideas, although in a very different way.

I’m not saying that they are not heterosexuals who like wearing drag, but like it or not drag is closely associated with homosexuality in the minds of the public.

Mr La Rue being as much in the limelight as he is, could try to be a bit more honest about his own sexuality and attempt to eradicate some of the misconceptions. Because you’re gay, you don’t necessarily like wearing women’s clothes, and you’re not necessarily a homosexual or a transvestite if you do.

Whatever your sexuality, if it’s not in out, in out heterosexuality, you’re likely to have cheap jibes thrown at you by the telly dictators like Danny La Rue and “The Comedians”, who ultimately shape people’s attitudes.

Why can’t you be constructive, Danny, and use this wonderful opportunity you have to destroy the myths in peoples’ minds, to do something about the maniacal situation, whereby Larry Grayson is the TV personality of the year at our expense, ultimately at your expense.

Films For Christmas

If you’re planning a Special Christmas visit to a West End Cinema, the film I most recommend you to see is Lady Caroline Lamb at the Empire cinema, Leicester Square (see my review). It shows daily at 2.30, 5.30 and 8.30.

At the Odeon Marble Arch, one of the most reasonably priced, luxurious and comfortable cinemas, you can see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the latest adaptation of Lews Carroll’s classic of our inner minds. This version promises to work more successfully than most, with music by John Barry and a magnificently eccentric cast, which includes Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Dennis Price, Flora Robson, Dudley Moore and Fiona Fullerton as Alice.

For the addicts the latest carry on, Carry On Abroad, shows at the Metropole Victoria until December 27th and for Alistair Maclean addicts there’s Where Eagles Dare, also until December 27th, at the Astoria Charing X Road. If you’d like some rather more original British comedy you can see Dick Emery flaunting and camping his way through Ooh, You Are Awful at the Astoria and Metropole from December 28th, or Danny La Rue as several good women in his first film, Our Miss Fred, which is showing at the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue.

There aren’t any new epics this Christmas so 20th Century Fox have rehashed the mammoth and ridiculously lavish 1962 version of Cleopatra. More famous at the time for the dramas on the set than for its narrative performances, it’s certainly worth a look at if you’re keen on historical films, or fascinated by the Taylor/Burton mystique. It’s showing at Studio One, Oxford Street.

After all the sweetness and plastic tinsel of the Christmas festivities, you might like to see a couple of films with slightly acidic tongues. Kubrick’s well publicised and deservedly highly praised Clockwork Orange is showing at the Warner West End, Leicester Square; and breaking all box office records at the Odeon Haymarket – it’s now in its eighth month – is the Ruling Class, a bitter, entertaining, delightfully destructive attack on the British upper classes with Peter O’Toole giving his best performance to date as the schizoid Earl.

Happy movie viewing this Christmas.

West End Cinemas Footnote

Since writing this feature certain changes have come to light, Cleopatra is no longer showing at the Studio 1. Where Eagles Dare is no longer running at the Astoria. It has been replaced by Ooh you are awful, but Carry on Abroad continues at the Metropole until the 27th. I wrote “for the addicts” before seeing it. It is in fact the best Carry On for ages, and literally had me screaming with laughter non stop for 90 minutes. The extreme blueness of the jokes, plus the riveting satire of those deserving targets, Mediterranean resorts, with their charming unfinished hotels, really make an entertaining film, which has a brilliance in its caricatures, which I am sure will ensure it is regarded as a British comedy classic by the NFT in about 30 years time. In support is a little publicised, exquisite, delicate, amusing and exciting thriller Ransom for a Dead Man, directed by the unknown Richard Irving; it is as superb as Hitchcock’s more brilliant efforts; a highly recommended double bill.

Alistair Maclean fans who missed out on Where Eagles Dare, can see the latest adaptation of his work, Fear is the Key, starring Barry (Vanishing Point) Newman at the ABC (twin cinemas, the other shows Our Miss Fred) Shaftesbury Avenue.

I have only seen excerpts, but it seems reasonably thrilling. Rather ironically, although mainly made in the USA, it was financed by a British distributor Anglo-EMI.